By Klaus Bergmann
LISBON – Bayern Munich on Saturday shifted their focus to the upcoming Champions League semi-final against Manchester City or Olympique Lyon as like the Germany team from 2014 they know they have achieved nothing yet.
Bayern were ruthless and imperious the previous night in an astonishing 8-2 thrashing of Barcelona which naturally brought back memories of Germany’s 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil in the World Cup semis six years ago.
But Thomas Mueller, who played and scored the opening goal in both games, saw a substantial difference.
While Brazil simply imploded in the absence of Neymar and amid the sky-high expectations of the football-mad nation, Mueller said that Bayern on Friday crushed Barcelona with their total dominance.
“We wanted to dominate the opponent with our way of playing football. We had a super first half. We were brutally dominating. It had more to do with our game than in Brazil,” he said.
And while Germany showed some mercy with Brazil after scoring five in the first half hour Bayern didn’t have similar sympathy for Lionel Messi and company behind the closed doors at Estadio da Luz, scoring four more after the break after netting the first four in 31 minutes.
“I actually enjoyed it a little bit,” midfielder Leon Goretzka said with a smirk when asked whether he felt sorry for Barca or not.
Alphonso Davies’ sensational solo to set up Munich’s fifth, and the ultimate humiliation in the final minutes in the form of a brace from substitute Philippe Coutinho against his parent club highlighted Bayern’s absolute ruthlessness.
“It was a very special night, the result and how it felt. The way we played was special. The greatest thing is that the players coming on had the same spirit,” Mueller said.
Coach Hansi Flick agreed: “Compliments to the team for keeping up the intensity when you have a big lead. That is our mentality, that’s what we stand for, and it also applies to those who came on.”
Flick, who was Germany assistant coach when they went on to win the World Cup in 2014, has managed a remarkable turnaround at Bayern since replacing Niko Kovac in November.
He makes every player feel important, and cyber-training sessions with the whole group during the coronavirus lockdown along with a few days of training on the Algarve coast have kept the team fired up for the final task en route to a treble as in 2013, after already lifting the Bundesliga and German cup trophies.
“Now it is about digesting what happened and then to prepare for the next game in order to achieve what we want: to be right at the top. That will mean some tough work,” Flick said.
Bayern’s numbers are hugely impressive.
They are unbeaten in 28 matches in all competitions since early December of which they have won 27 and the last 19 which includes all 13 since play resumed in mid-May.
In that period they have scored 94 goals in all competitions while their full season tally now stands at an astonishing 155 goals from 50 matches.
In the Champions League, they have won all nine games, scoring 39 goals in the process which include a 7-2 thrashing of last year’s runners-up Tottenham, a 6-0 demolition of Red Star Belgrade, and a 7-1 aggregate last 16 triumph over Chelsea before the eight against Barca.
It was almost a footnote that competition top scorer Robert Lewandowski improved his tally to 14, and the Polish marksman will hope to have two more games in order to attack Cristiano Ronaldo’s all-time mark of 17.
In the final four, Bayern could run into their former coach Pep Guardiola who aims for a first-ever Champions League trophy with City, but after scoring 10 goals against Spurs in the group stage and then seven against Chelsea they won’t fear a third English opponent.
Flick will not make the same mistake as Kovac whose overly cautious approach saw them go out in the last 16 against later champions Liverpool last year.
Bayern are fully fit and will play their high pressing game again when they meet City or Lyon, the only aim being reaching the August 23 final and then to hold aloft the trophy a sixth time.
But like in 2014, when it took them 120 hard-fought minutes against Argentina after the Brazil triumph to lift the World Cup trophy, Bayern know that they have to stay focussed for at least another 180 minutes, and must address some defensive weaknesses they showed early in Friday’s match.
“It is one game. It ended 8-2. You could say its a statement but the next game starts from zero,” Flick warned.
Said Mueller: “We aren’t here to win the quarter-final, we’re here to win the trophy. You have to be careful after such big wins.”